Starcomms Limited, a Private Telecommunications Operator (PTO) has applied to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to become the country's third national carrier.

The firm's Chief Executive Officer, Maher Qubian made this known during an interactive session with newsmen in Lagos recently. He disclosed that the company is buoyed by the new investments that three foreign investors have invested into the company worth $15million.

Qubain disclosed that the latest investments are those from Actis: a venture capital firm, Emerging Market Programme Africa (EMPA) and the Lababidi Group. He said the three investors are investing US$5million each to strengthen Starcomms limited. "Our shareholders are bringing money into the country, while our competitors are taking foreign exchange out", he said. He pointed out that "the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), is already processing the papers with a fine toothcomb but once this is through, we will start drawing from it."

Qubain told journalists that two foreign telecom operators are currently holding talks with his company with a view to buy into Starcomms. "We have been approached by two major players from Africa and the Middle East. The interesting thing is that the major players are looking into the Nigerian telecommunications sector." According to him, the confidence of these operators in Starcomms is so amazingly great that inspite of the current tension in the Niger Delta region of the country, they are still willing to bring their money into the country.

Inorder to fulfill its quest of becoming the third national operator, Starcomms recently issued two cheques worth N520million to the National Communications Commission (NCC) for a unified license.

The money was part of the new conditions for the new licensing regime recently introduced by the NCC. To qualify for a UL under the new regime, an operator must be able to spread and expand its services to the six geo-political zones of the country.

Under the new regime which is similar to the consolidation in the banking and insurance sectors of the economy, an operator can offer more flexible multi-services including mobile and fixed lines, broadband Internet and fixed wireless.

The new regime came into being at the end of the five-year exclusive grace granted GSM operators in the country, which ended last February. The Chief Executive of the telecommunications outfit said then that the funds invested are " in preparation for unified licensing." The US$20 million was a follow up to the US$23million the firm got from China Export Import Bank (China Exim) facilitated by Huawei Technologies and Zenith Bank Plc.

This Day